Beef With Sandra Lee

Those of you that are familiar with my recipes might have noticed a common theme: I always take the semi-homemade approach.

I applaud those that make baked goods from scratch and grow fresh herbs in their apartment, but I long ago accepted that truly homemade would never be my thing. I’m way too messy in the kitchen, and if a recipe has more than 5 steps, I will no doubt make a gigantic mistake.

Remember the Friends episode where Rachel Green tries to make a “Traditional English Trifle” for Thanksgiving desert ends up with a wacky food combination that’s a cross of Shepard’s Pie and some fruity dessert?

What's not to like? "Custard..good! Jam...good...Meat....goooood!"

Yeah, that’s me (without the perfect, trend-setting haircut).

So, that’s why I cook out of a box, can or pouch 90% of the time. And I’m not ashamed! The “Semi-Homemade” approach is easy, fun and still gives me that same “look, I baked” feeling of satisfaction. Win, Win.

But, you know what’s drives me crazy…

This woman – The Queen of Semi-Homemade , Sandra Lee.

Doling out sloppy joes and lookin' like Susie Homemaker...I don't get it!

As you all know, I’m not much of a people basher, so please, allow me to explain myself.

Love her recipes, love her website, love her show, even love her magazine…but Sandra Lee as a person to me is one big CONTRADICTION.

I remember the first time I saw her show. I was finally in my first “big girl’s apartment” post college in 2005 and the Food Network had become my latest night-time obsession. I almost changed the channel when I saw this proper, perfectly primped blondie on the screen. But, then I noticed a box of cake mix on the screen and decided to watch for a bit longer.

Actual photo from 2007! My first Semi-Homemade Pie!!

From there, I was hooked! Finally, somebody embracing the same concept my mother had been preaching to me for years! For some reason, the fact that this semi-homemade approach to cooking was featured on Food Network made it legitimate in my eyes. At the time, I was interning at a PR firm in Chicago, and I promptly walked into the office the next day with healthified cupcakes in tow proudly declaring, “They’re semi-homemade. You know, out-of-the box.”

Over the years, I’ve remained loyal to ol’ Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade recipes…but something’s always bothered me. As I’ve come to understand the true meaning of branding and speaking to your target audience through my day job, I’ve realized my issue with Sandra Lee:

Homegirl is NOT the picture of a semi-homemade woman.

Now, let me just caveat this statement with the fact that, being a true journalist, I have done my research. Her backstory, is in fact extremely compelling and admirable. I’m not taking anything away from that.

But, in my opinion, a woman who bakes from the box and out of the bag might not always be so…put together. I stopped watching her show because, frankly, I just don’t relate to her whatsoever. All of my fave celebrity chefs are people I feel like I can identify with on some level, and Sandra Lee, well, frankly girl, you’re out of my league.

Your kitchen is white…and you never spill.

The white kitchen doesn't fly in a Sometimes Healthy House.

A semi-homemade woman likely wouldn’t have a white kitchen because she would mess it up the minute she breaks out  the mixer…or if she’s a mother, one of her little angels would probably drip ketchup all over those lovely white walls.

Your always create perfect “matchy matchy” tablescapes expect a girl who is BFF with Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines to recreate this? Fo real?

Whenever I watch her shows, I want to pat myself on the back for following her recipe, but then she has to go and place that perfect food on a picture-perfect “tablescape.” One step at a time, Sandra. This Sometimes Healthy “Semi-Homemade” girl can barely clean the kitchen – now you’re telling me to put the food on a pretty table. Anyway, my point is that a semi-homemade woman (in my eyes) might not have the time or skills to throw the above table together, no matter how “simple” it might be. Can you just show me how to properly wipe off my countertop, instead Sandy? I’m still stuck on that step.

You always look like you stepped out of the cover of Good Housekeeping

If I figured out how to make cupcakes likes can bet I wouldn't look like that afterwards.

Okay, I get it. It’s a magazine cover – she has to look nice and “photo ready.” But, just once, I’d like to see her let loose a bit. Maybe throw that shiny blond hair in a messy bun? Perhaps sport a t-shirt and jeans? Heck, she could even go wild and actually take a big, obnoxious bite out of one of those juicy burgers she makes on her grilling episodes. She always looks so buttoned up to me, and I just feel like a “cake box baker” might have a hair out of place every now and then.

Semi-Homemade Does Not = Hot Mess

Overall, I find Sandra’s sheer perfection out of line with the semi-homemade concept. Now, I’m not saying that a semi-homemade person should be equivalent to a hot mess like some people you might know…

All I’m sayin’ is that if I could have my way, the face of semi-homemade would be more relatable…a little flawed…a little funny.

That's more like it ;-)

I’m sure Sandra has double crossed all of her t’s and triple dotted her i’s with the trademarking around anything and everything “semi-homemade.” So, no one will be taking over as the face of that brand anytime. But, just for fun, I thought it would be neat to play around with potential replacements:

Lorelai Gilmore – Gilmore Girls

This woman is capable of major kitchen disasters, but she can tackle the semi-homemade.

The picture says it all. She’s disheveled, yet completely together. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, but clearly isn’t capable of executing a “from scratch” meal on her own. And she probably ends up looking like this after she turns on a mixer.

Lynette Scavo – Desperate Housewives

Her husband may have a pizzeria, but that doesn't mean she cooks from scratch. She's busy.

Bri = Sandra Lee. Lynette = Semi-homemade. Enough said.


Now, THIS is what a picture the “cake box” woman to be like. Dear Food Network: Please combine Sandra Lee’s simple recipes with Ellen’s approachable and entertaining dialog…You can thank me later.

I’m not a hater. I’ll still watch her show every now and then, and I’ll definitely surf her website for recipes. But, I’ll hold onto hope that one of these days she’ll let that hair down a bit and shed some light on the fun imperfections and quirky flaws that make up the modern day semi-homemade woman.

Until then, Sandra Lee, here’s my advice to you…


Who’s your fave celeb chef? Why do you like him/her?

Do you agree with my thoughts about Sandra Lee? Who would you pick to the face of the semi-homemade brand? Let’s discuss…

16 Thoughts on “Beef With Sandra Lee

  1. i LOVE that friends episode w/the trifle — one of the BEST!

  2. I completely agree with you! I don’t know much about Sandra Lee and don’t watch her show, but I definitely don’t equate her appearance and overall atmosphere to semi-homemade. Lynette, on the other hand, is the exact kind of person who would make dinner from a box. In terms of a real chef/cook, even Rachel Ray appears to be more of a semi-homemade type (which she isn’t!).

  3. Oh yes I sooo agree with you… she is actually one of the few people on Food Network I literally cannot stand! her show comes up and I want to quickly hurl something at the TV, or you know just change the channel :) I like the concept of her recipes too, but she is too damn annoying to listen or watch…gahhhh! Sorry i don’t like her
    Have a lovely day Jamie, this post made me laugh 😀

  4. OMG love lorelei gilmore! And totally agree with your statement about her- even though she’s not real and isn’t a chef haha.

  5. Haha, this is hilarious. And what I love about Sandra Lee is that she seems so perfect you know she is batshit crazy when it all comes down to it and the camera are off. I’d have to say I like Mario Batali or Tom Colicchio. They seem kind of like real dudes. That can really cook.

    That is one of the best Friends episodes of all time. Love.

  6. This really resonated with me. For once, I’d like to see some television chefs balance cleaning at the same time as cooking. We don’t all have 12 pans and pots that we can use simultaneously while we cook. First of all, who owns 12 pots and pans in NYC apartments? And second of all, we have to keep washing the same one or two pans WHILE cooking as a result. So I’d like to see that, too!


  7. Haha….love this! I so agree…everyone has to find their own cooking style/vibe that works for them. I like Rachael Ray (I know there are a lot of haters out there) because I feel she’s approachable/real, but I find her recipes are generally not healthy at all (even when she says they are)….and I love me some Paula Deen, even though she’s pretty much the furthest thing from healthy…just so fun to watch!

  8. I love your versions of semi-homemade. Well, I always love watching Paula Deen and Down Home with the Neely’s, although I’ll probably never be pulling out any of their recipes! Too much work.

  9. I don’t watch a lot of food tv (makes me too hungry!) but I agree that Sandra is a little too over styled. That white kitchen picture is particularly irritating… you KNOW there is some big messy kitchen where all that stuff was made and a million people were working to make that pretty kitchen (and the photo) looking perfect.

    I love your semi-homemade approach. It’s so much more doable and just as delicious. It’s the love put in, not the time spent, on delicious food that makes it so wonderful. The pink kitchen picture is fabulous, btw! Sandra could learn a thing or two from you :)

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  11. Debbie on 1 October, 2011 at 11:16 pm said:

    Funny post! Totally agree about Sandy. Can. Not. Stand. Nice Lorelei reference. Miss that show. Thankfully she plays the same character on Parenthood. Stumbled upon your site as I was looking for apple pancake recipes. I used to go to Walker Bros all the time…went to NU too! Anyway, I’m glad to have found your blog :)

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